The photo for this article was provided by the interviewee.
Part of the thriving Glasgow coffee scene since 2018, MAYZE Is a speciality coffee shop that serves vegan bakes and vegetarian food. MAYZE also provides vegan and vegetarian catering services.
In this interview, I talk with Gillian, the owner of MAYZE. We discuss about starting a business in the hospitality industry, designing a food menu for MAYZE, and more. Now onto the interview.
Can you tell me about yourself and your role at MAYZE Finnieston?
I'm Gillian, I have a coffee shop in Finnieston, Glasgow called MAYZE which I opened in 2018. I also own Something Brewed Coffee Bar, a mobile bar for weddings and special events which got started in 2015.
I work in MAYZE full time from Wednesday to Sunday and also help coordinate the events which are generally at the weekends. Sometimes I also work at them, but my husband Craig mostly takes care of the events side.
What got you interested in speciality coffee? What made you take the leap and start a business in the hospitality industry?
After I graduated from Uni, I worked for a few years in the film and TV industry. As part of my job on location, I would head out and get the coffees for my team and found myself chatting to the cafe staff reminiscing about my part time jobs I had while I was studying. A few months later I decided to quit the industry and 'work in a cafe 'till I figured out what I was going to do next' I started in a fairly popular glasgow cafe and after I hit management level I needed something new to learn - then came specialty coffee. I began working in a roastery which quickly solidified my love for the exciting flavours and brew methods available.
My husband and I started our own events coffee bar Something Brewed as a part time passion project and it grew from there! Fast forward a few years and through a series of fortunate events I found myself in a position with a tiny bit of money where I was able to open my own shop - MAYZE!. With my husband and two friends we built the shop from scratch with help from DIY pals along the way. Now I get to share my own curated rotating coffee menu allowing me to make personal connections with roasteries and cafes around the UK and Europe!
When you decided to start something in the hospitality industry, what happened next? How did you go from having an idea to bringing your vision to fruition?
As I mentioned, Something Brewed was a passion project and we built it up slowly through markets and weddings, making connections all while my husband and I were working full time in hospitality. Something Brewed was then asked to do a permanent pop up in a new Glasgow concept cafe which gave us great insight into the inner workings of having a brick and mortar shop as well as being an employer and being self employed full time. Once we felt we had maximised our potential in that space, we found our own unit and we ultimately got the keys and opened the doors in around four weeks. To be honest, I don't think we thought very much about it, we just had a dream and were determined to make it work and we've been changing and adapting ever since!
How did you decide on your food and drinks menu for MAYZE? What steps did you need to take to plan out your vegan offerings?
From a food standpoint, we always wanted MAYZE to be as inclusive and accessible as possible. My husband has a gluten, dairy, and egg intolerance and our baker also had a dairy intolerance. We decided it would be easier if all of the cakes were vegan as standard and we've worked so hard to make sure our recipes are just as good (if not better) than their dairy-based counterparts. The menu then naturally fell towards the vegetarian side and our own love for brunches inspired our menu. It has changed considerably over the pandemic while our customer base has completely changed. But we are constantly changing and adapting to the current climate.
What tasks take up most of your time on an average day?
It's always the customers, they come first over literally anything else. I would rather spend 20 minutes talking to a customer about their day if we're quiet and give them the attention they deserve than sit with the computer and do paperwork. It's a luxury if I do get time to do other things while I'm on a shift but I have a really great team and they are each dedicated to their positions: chef, baker, and barista. I am almost the supporting role for them, merging everything together to create the best customer experience.
What is the biggest challenge you face running a cafe?
I don't really think there is one main challenge. As an owner, your job is basically to problem solve almost anything. It could be from a tap leaking to customers arriving early for their cake collections, suppliers being late or staff shortages or isolations. They are all important and your skill as a business owner is knowing how to quickly and effectively solve them with the least impact on service.
I think in the beginning I was most surprised by how affected I was by comparison to my peers. Instagram, followers, copying menu items etc. Its a mental challenge you have to overcome and I think that was the hardest part. I've learned now that there is room for everyone and if I can do my best and be proud of what I serve and put out—and the customers are happy—then I'm happy!
What is the most rewarding part of running your own cafe?
This is probably getting boring now, but it's the customers. For someone to choose to spend their money with me knowing this is my livelihood and they enjoy what I have created—getting positive feedback from old ladies, young students, parenst, people who aren't even vegetarian, people who have never tasted specialty coffee before—its such a buzz that I have never experienced anywhere else in life.
Having such a talented team working with me is a joy every day. Empowering passionate people in a role that they are excited about is also amazing—all of the staff we've ever had at MAYZE have been amazing!
What is your favourite part about working in the Scottish coffee industry?
We all know and love the work we all do! We can go to any city or town and know at least one shop we can head to, we can instantly spark a conversation and make new connections. It's actually amazing!
What espresso machine do you use at Mayze Finnieston?
Astoria STORM. I love it because it draws water flow and pressure graphs on its display screens so I can always tell how well the espresso is reacting inside the portafilter. You also get full control over the yield per ml, preinfusion, and temperature in the boiler and group head. This means you can curate your recipe for each new coffee we get on the bar. I love it!
You can learn more about Mayze Finnieston on their Instagram page at @mayze_finnieston.